Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Singing Through the Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 52 (Part 1)

Lord's Day 52 (Part 1)

Q & A 127

Q. What does the sixth request mean?

A. "And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one" means,

By ourselves we are too weak
to hold our own even for a moment.

And our sworn enemies—
the devil, the world, and our own flesh—
never stop attacking us.

And so, Lord,
uphold us and make us strong
with the strength of your Holy Spirit,
so that we may not go down to defeat
in this spiritual struggle,
but may firmly resist our enemies
until we finally win the complete victory.


The sixth petition is a bit puzzling. For on the one hand, Scripture tells us that God tempts no one to evil, so why would we need to ask the Father not to do something he never does? But on the other hand, if the word temptation means testing, why should we ask God not to send us tests, when clearly this is something he does, according to Scripture? James even advises us to rejoice in the various tests and trials that come from our Father’s providential hand.

Lionel Windsor has pointed to the Old Testament background to give us a better understanding of what is meant by the petition, lead us not into temptation. He points to the way the Israelites put God to the test at Massah in Exodus 17. Here at Massah, a place-name that means testing, the people so distrusted the Lord who had delivered them from Egypt, that they accused him of bringing them into the desert to kill them! They distrusted and rebelled against the Lord and his servant-mediator, Moses.

It seems to me, then, that in the sixth request we are asking the heavenly Father to keep us in Jesus Christ through faith, so that we might not apostasize and fall away from our Mediator through a heart of unbelief. Just as the Lord kept Peter’s faith from failing when Satan had asked to sift him, so we pray He might also keep our faith from failing in times of testing (Luke 22:31-33). This interpretation would be in line with 1 John 5:4: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Positively, then, in the sixth petition we are asking the Father for the Spirit to continue to work faith in Jesus Christ in our hearts.

Prayer, which is the hand of faith, is born of need. The great danger in the spiritual struggle we are involved in is self-confidence. We are never to look to our own strength in the war we wage with “the devil, the world, and our own flesh.” Q&A 127 recognizes that faith seeks its strength outside of itself, in Jesus Christ in heaven, whom the Spirit has united us to by faith. Jesus’ overcoming --- his victory over our enemies (John 16:33) --- is the basis for our life of faith in the goodness of God our Father.

Notice how Q&A 127 puts no confidence in ourselves, but looks away to the Father through the Son for grace and strength. With the catechism we admit that “by ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment.” With the catechism, we admit that our enemies are too persistent and strong for us. And so, with the catechism we look to the Lord to “uphold us and make us strong with the strength of the Holy Spirit,” who lifts our hearts to fellowship with the Father and the Son.


Our Weakness, Lord, We Would Confess

To the tune: ROCKINGHAM OLD (http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/299). Based on Lord’s Day 52 of the Heidelberg Catechism (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 106). Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
Our weakness, Lord, we would confess,
we cannot stand against our foes.
For on our own we have no strength.
in Christ alone Your power flows.

v. 2
Our enemies oppose the Lord,
attack His people day and night.
Our flesh, the devil, and the world,
oppose our faith and hate the light.

v. 3
O send Your Spirit, make us strong,
and keep Your people in Your Son,
that in this fight, intense and long,
we would resist and overcome.

v. 4
O Father, there is only One,
who in this battle vict’ry won.
His name is Jesus, Your dear Son.
I hide in Him, by faith I come.

v. 5
If I should sin against you, Lord,
transgress Your laws, turn from Your Word.
May I in mercy be restored,
Your blood to cleanse, Your Spirit poured.

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